Theology

Looking Back at the Cross through the Resurrection

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We have arrived in the Easter season. We made it! We have traveled with Jesus through his suffering during Lent. We were with Jesus on Good Friday as he suffered on the cross. We endured the eerie silence of Holy Saturday as the lifeless body of Jesus lay motionless in the tomb.

We celebrated the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday as we remember Christ has trampled down death by death. Jesus has conquered death! He is risen. He is alive! We are now walking in the power and light of his resurrection. As his body, his living visible reminder on the the earth, we want to “know him and the power of his resurrection…” as Paul writes to the Philippians. We want to know this powerful Christ, this life-giving Christ, this saving, rescuing Christ, this Jesus who has suffered and in the end conquered.

We want to know this power, but Paul continues his thought by adding, “…and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10 ESV). Practicing resurrection as people who believe in Jesus means looking back at the cross through the glory and brightness of the resurrection.

At the Cross

The resurrection of Christ paints a new color on the cross of Christ. Without the resurrection, the cross ends in defeat. At the cross we see King Jesus…
Not conquering, but going down in defeat.
Not killing his enemies, but being killed.
Not shouting, but suffering.
Not retaliatory, but forgiving.
Not triumphant, but disgraced.
Not glorious, but hideous.
Not exalted, but humiliated.
Not celebrated, but mocked.
Not revered, but ridiculed.
Not grandiose, but pitiful.
Not self-assured, but self-giving.

Crucifixion is not how kings take their throne; it is how criminals meet their doom. If the gospel ended with the cross, it wouldn’t be good news at all. It is the resurrection of Jesus that changes everything. We see that this is how God saves the world, because this is what God is like. God is co-suffering, self-giving love. Through eyes painted bright by the resurrection, we see the cross as the center of everything, the center of the kingdom of God, the center of God’s rescuing, restoring work, the center of God’s new world! But it isn’t the cross alone.

If Jesus saves us simply by dying on the cross, then there would be no need for the resurrection. The truth is that Jesus saves us by his birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension. The cross is at the center, not doubt, but the saving work of Jesus begins with his virgin birth. Jesus’ birth saves us from alienation. His life saves us from destruction. His cross saves us from sin. His resurrection saves us from death. His ascension saves us from ourselves. Nevertheless in the middle of all of the saving work of Jesus remains the cross.

In the middle of all of the saving work of Jesus remains the cross. Click To Tweet

Look at the Cross through Resurrection

Looking back through the resurrection we can see the cross for what it is, a demonstration of the love of God. While it was not always clear, God has always been a God of co-suffering, self-giving love. God’s love was never more clear in all of human history than in that moment when Jesus hung upon the cross.

Paul says as much when he writes, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Jesus dies for our sin, with our sin, saving us from “the wrath” (Romans 5:9), best understood as pending eschatological judgment. Jesus does not the rescue us from the literal “wrath/anger of God.” The phrase “of God” does not appear in the Greek text, but has been added in some English translations. Jesus’ death on the cross does not reveal God’s anger, but God’s love as God in Christ came to reconcile the world to himself.

Jesus’ death doesn't reveal anger, but love as God in Christ came to reconcile the world. Click To Tweet

The New Big Family

The cross of Christ as seen through the resurrection is where Jesus takes our sin into death where sin itself dies and is condemned (Romans 8:3), where sin is put away with (Hebrews 9:26), so that we could die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Peter 2:24). God’s desire for his people was to be a vineyard that would bear the fruit of justice and righteousness (Isaiah 5:7) and what the law of Moses could not do, God did by sending his son to be the firstborn of a big family of those who bear fruits of justice and righteousness in the earth as we identify with Jesus in his suffering and resurrection.

God sent his son to be the 1st of a big family who bear the fruit of justice & righteousness. Click To Tweet

Our responsibility is simply to respond to the love of God with love. God the Father demonstrated his love in Jesus’ death, but God would not abandon his son leaving Jesus in the grave; God also demonstrated his love in the resurrection. As we respond to the love of God with love, with the cross at the center, we find ourselves becoming a cruciform people.

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